The Bartlett School of Planning

Prof Catalina Turcu

Prof Catalina Turcu

Professor of Sustainable Built Environment

The Bartlett School of Planning

Faculty of the Built Environment

Joined UCL
1st Oct 2010

Research summary

ORCiD: 0000-0003-2663-2586

My work contributes to the understanding and measurement of urban sustainability at the local or community level. Theoretically, my research adds the political dimension to the traditional three-pillar (economic, social, environmental) understanding of sustainability. Empirically, my research examines sustainable urban transformations at the local level by integrating social, political and physical aspects of the built environment. My core research contributions are summarised below under three inter-related themes.

1. The role of politics in shaping urban sustainability. My work employs institutional lens to examine local sustainability processes in cities. It looks at formal institutions and governance frameworks that shape these processes, as well as informal institutions such as social responsibility and institutional trust.  

2. The social context of urban sustainability. My research contributes to an agency and intersectional understanding of sustainability which is bottom-up and place-based. The social production and re-production of sustainability knowledge at the local level is a recurring sub-theme here and has been extensively developed in relation to sustainability indicators.

3. Narratives of sustainable cities. In this body of work I look at how sustainable cities imaginaries (such as low-carbon, healthy, circular city) are applied in spatial planning and the built environment at the local level and/or in relation to Sustainable Development Goal 11 ('Sustainable Cities and Communities').

Current research projects:

  • FULL (Food for Urban Lives and Locality)
  • DenseHOUSE (Housing densification, social sustainability and placemaking)
  • CUSSH (Complex Urban Systems for Sustainability and Health)

Teaching summary

Currently, I teach and convene the following modules at the postgraduate level:

- Sustainable Development Goals and Spatial Planning (coming 2023-2024)

- Since 2012 Sustainable Urban Development Project (BPLN0106, UCL, pgt)

- Since 2015 Major Research Projects (BPLN0052, UCL, pgt)

I have also taught on the following topics at UCL, LSE and UAUIM:

- 2012-2022 Sustainable Urban Developemnt Key Themes (UCL, pgt)

- 2015-2018 Governing urban sustainability (UCL, pgt)

- 2012-2014 Green futures (UCL, ug)

- 2012-2015 Making cities: the production of the built environment (UCL, ug)

- 2008-2012 Urban poverty, spatial and social exclusion (LSE, ug)

- 2007-2010 International housing and social change (LSE, ug)

- 1998-2000 Public administration and urban management (UAUIM, ug)

- 1998-2000 Materials and building specification (UAUIM, ug)


University College London
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education | 2014
London School of Economics and Political Science
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2010
London School of Economics and Political Science
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 2001
Universitatea din Bucuresti
Other higher degree, Master | 1999
Universitatea din Bucuresti
Other Postgraduate qualification (including professional), Diploma of Architecture | 1996
Universitatea din Bucuresti
First Degree, Bachelor of Architecture | 1993


I am Professor of Sustainable Built Environment at the Bartlett School of Planning and an interdisciplinary scholar by training (public policy, urban planning, architecture) and interest (sustainability). My more recent research looks at the SDGs, food, climate and health in the context of cities. I advise regularly governments and international organisations, including the World Bank, OECD, UN and WHO, on urban sustainability aspects. Currently, I coordinate work on UNEP's 7th Global Environment Outlook (GEO-7) assessment, due to be published in 2026. I am also Academic Director of UCL Stockholm City Partnership (Climate Change and Health in the City) and Founder of the UCL SDG Research Accelerator. I hold a PhD in public policy from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences (LSE) and degrees in housing (MSc, LSE), urban planning (MA, UAUIM) and architecture (BArch and DipArch, UAUIM). I have worked in architecture and planning consultancy for 10 years before joining academia.